Scalise leads, but England’s Briggs is close behind

Lorenzo Scalise

Italy’s Lorenzo Scalise shot eight-under 64 on the Old Course at Walton Heath today to lead a low-scoring charge in the first round of the European Amateur Championship.

Scalise, the Italian national champion, is just a shot ahead of England teenager Toby Briggs and South Africa’s Keegan de Lange, while Jeremy Gandon of France and Australia’s Dylan Perry both scored 66.

Another English player, Daniel O’Loughlin (Ruddington Grange, Nottinghamshire), shares sixth place on 67. English amateur champion Dan Brown (Masham, Yorkshire) and St Andrews Links Trophy winner Matthew Jordan (Royal Liverpool, Cheshire) are both in the top ten with rounds of 68.  

They’re all at the head of a thoroughly international leaderboard which features 29 players with scores in the 60s, including the host club’s David Boote on 69. In total, 60 players broke par, taking advantage of the still conditions and the softening effects of yesterday’s deluge.

Scalise (pictured top) got off to a “perfect start” when he birdied the first, drove the par four 3rd to set up another birdie and had a tap-in birdie on the fourth. “From there I kept on playing with the same rhythm and I was never in the position of having to recover, except on the last hole.” 

On the 18th, Scalise’s drive ended in thick rough. He powered it out and although he couldn’t clear the bunker guarding the green, he managed to get up and down for par to complete a bogey-free round.

Briggs, a 17-year-old England boy international from Dunston Hall, Norfolk (pictured right), would have caught the leader but for a three-putt on the 18th. “I was about 30ft away and wanted to hole it for a birdie but I went about 6ft past and missed it coming back,” he explained.

Earlier he’d holed several putts of around 30ft and pitched in for an eagle three on the 16th. “I’m happy after last week at the Amateur when I struggled off the tee and missed the cut. Today I wasn’t great of the tee but I had some good breaks and hit nearly every green in regulation. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

De Lange matched Briggs’ 65 with a bogey-free round which was perhaps even more notable for including no score greater than four. “The key to the round today was the putter, it really hotted up,” he said.

“I hit myself into a bit of trouble on the back nine and missed the fairway on all three par fives, but I birdied all of them with some really good putts.”

He added: “I’ve played lovely and had a great day. I haven’t played well in a while, I’ve been a little on the back foot, so it’s nice to get a good round in.”

The back nine was also kind to Gandon, who came home in six-under 31 for his 66. He had started well, quickly getting to two-under, before a double bogey on six pulled him back to level. On the 10th his round took off with the first of five birdies and an eagle, before he bogeyed 18. “I loved it!” he said of his round.

Dylan Perry arrived at Walton Heath after finishing runner-up in last weekend’s Amateur Championship – but he was determined to put the disappointment behind him and he proved it with his 66.

The 22-year-old Australian remarked: “It was a disappointing end result for me but I’ve got to take the positives. You can’t dwell on it for too long, you either come out of it a better golfer or go the other way, so it’s been a big confidence boost for me.”

Today he started with two bogeys but quickly repaired the early damage, reaching the turn at one-under before coming back in five under 32, with the help of an eagle three on 16 and three birdies.

“I’m all about being patient on the golf course, that’s how I play – and I played solid from 3 to 18! It’s only round one, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” he said.

The 2016 champion Luca Cianchetti began the defence of his title with two under 70 and remarked: “It’s pretty good to be here to defend the title and I will do my best to take it home another time.”

There’s much discussion within golf these days about pace of play and the first group out today set a great example. Robert MacIntyre of Scotland, Maximilian Schmitt of Germany and Stuart Grehan of Ireland were round in 3hr 45mins and all played under par, scoring 68, 69 and 70 respectively.

In total, the whole field of 144 players played the 7180-yard course in the allotted time of 4hr 18min per group. England Golf Championship Director James Crampton said: “This is a great achievement and something we should applaud. Congratulations to the players.”

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